That’s certainly the case when it comes to Italian cocktails like the negroni, and as consumers become more exposed to the likes of Aperol and Campari, the growth of these amaro (bitter-based) cocktails continue.
Indeed, bitters are an important part of a classic cocktail, notes Daniel Love, lead bartender at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach. He points out that The Balance and Columbian Repository publication in the early 19th century defined a cocktail as the sum of four key parts: liquor, sugar, water, and bitters.
Sapore caught up with Love to learn more about classic Italian cocktails and their variations at Scarpetta by Scott Conant, the award-winning restaurant within Fontainebleau Miami Beach.
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Legend has it that the negroni was named after a count, Camillo Negroni, living in Florence in the early 1900s. The count favored the Italian Americano cocktail, which is Campari and sweet vermouth over ice, but then requested that the bartender stiffen it by adding gin. Though this drink typically combines equal parts sweet vermouth, Campari, and gin, Love likes to take the sweetness down and the alcohol and bitters up. He uses one part Campari, a little less sweet vermouth, and a little more gin to resemble a Boulevardier, which is essentially a negroni but with bourbon.
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Love says he’s definitely seen a growth in the number of people asking for this naturally low-ABV cocktail that’s also a winner for all-day drinking during weekend brunch. This drink is a simple combination of Aperol, prosecco, and sometimes a splash of soda water with an orange peel garnish. “Aperol is a little sweeter than Campari so it can be more approachable in a cocktail and very refreshing,” Love says. His own spin ratchets up the bitter flavors in the form of a 50/50 split of Aperol and Campari (or Amaro Montenegro) that’s infused with fresh orange in mason jars, strained over ice, and topped with prosecco and orange-peel garnish.
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A bellini is only a bellini when made with white peach purée, or so says Love. “When I first started making it, people would order it with peach schnapps and prosecco, but technically that is not a true bellini,” he says. With or without a lemon twist garnish, the bellini sells by the gallons at brunch, especially the popular Mother’s Day brunch at Scarpetta. Love says stories around the drink say it was invented sometime in the 1930s or ’40s when the founder of Harry’s Bar in Venice tried to re-create the unique pink color in a 15-century painting by a Venetian artist he was fond of. For a twist, Love will add a little vodka and peach liqueur crème de pêche, a creamy French liqueur.
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Scarpetta by Scott Conant
This palate-cleansing, post-dinner digestif with origins in Southern Italy can be made in-house by infusing a high-grain spirit with lemons. In Love’s case, he employs a high-proof spirit like Everclear with the peels from 60 lemons at a time (to make 3 liters limoncello) and lets it sit for two weeks in jars. He then makes a separate syrup out of fresh lemon juice, calamansi purée, lavender blossom, chamomile tea, sugar, and water that’s blended with the infused spirit and a little stabilizer. He combines a little less than equal parts syrup to alcohol, so it ends up with an ABV of 40 percent, similar to vodka.